But wait! Since a major portion of this game is devoted to rounding up and then re-rounding up a cast of fourteen, let's get some sound bites from our assembled war band! I'll be slipping in some wrap-up game commentary and character analysis; I hope I don't bore you.
Each character's airship quote has been static since we first collected everyone during our cat-herding expedition across the World of Ruin.
Terra's is surprising, at first glance.
For once, a gal talking about a guy has nothing whatsoever to do with romance. I confess that I underestimated Leo, thinking that he was prepping Terra for "love (i.e. romantic/sexual) will find you someday." Nope. He meant philia, not necessarily eros. We know how Leo demonstrated genuine care for his soldiers, getting to know them and paying attention to their day-to-day lives and families; his troops loved him in return. Terra has found a similar niche for herself in the village that she's protecting, where she's loved as "Mama" if not "General."
Speaking of protectors:
Has Locke's character developed at all in this game? I suppose he's let go of Rachel, which is pretty major for him. Nevertheless, his driving purpose is unchanged, even if he's left the object of it behind. That can be either positive or negative, depending on how he goes about it.
Again, I find it fascinating how FFVI forces me to reassess the knight-in-shining armor trope. Is it such a bad thing that Locke's burning passion is helping people? Yet when he starts relating to the female characters only as vulnerable damsels who need his help — I'm not sure he ever speaks to Terra after she stops needing a protector — I want to shake him.
Also, Locke makes blanket assumptions about who "needs to be protected." Strago calls him on it, but Locke doesn't really respond to or learn from this. (Yes, I know, considering the limited character development in V, I'm asking a lot.)
This is Celes' quote as soon as the party finds the Falcon airship, so it's probably referring back to her suicide attempt on the deserted island and her discovery that some of her friends (and, in particular, Locke) may still be alive.
Celes undergoes more visible character development, in terms of personality, but she seems to me to morph from a position of strength to a position of weakness. She starts out hard-nosed and standoffish: "I'm not a love-starved twit" / "I'm a soldier, not an opera floozy!" / "Use your own eyes, and see for yourself which side I'm on." At the Magitek Research Facility, Celes has trouble speaking up for herself, but she can still muster a "let me protect you, Locke, for once" and does so, taking on Kefka and a couple Magitek Armored Soldiers solo. That is the Celes I expect: a fighter with extraordinary powers, who can ambush a foe that even Leo stood no chance against. In the World of Ruin, Celes seems to be somewhat broken herself, uncertain and frightened and despairing (of course, it's a pretty depressing world), needing Locke or her friends to help her go on living.
On the flip side, I think Celes also becomes more empathic; she's always the one picking up on Terra's fey moods and asking, "what's wrong?" Also, from the time that she leaves the Deserted Island, Celes becomes the one to rouse people's spirits (Setzer, Terra) and convince them that there are still things worth fighting for. Leo's not the only general who rallies the troops!
On a less serious note...
Oh, Ed, you silly galoof. (Speaking of limited character development.) Of course, there's a little more to Edgar than this— his stint as Gerad to make sure his people were safe was typical of Ed the Tactician and Good King Edgar — but still.
Surprisingly, Strago is one of the few characters to undergo character development. When we first met him, the crusty old man insisted that he couldn't help us much. His friend Gungho's quest, challenging Strago to defeat the nemesis of his youthful adventuring days, has giving the old mage warrior a second wind.
The rest of the party's quotes are more generic:
Shadow: ... ...
Gogo: ... ...
Cyan [in the engine room]: What an amazing device! [He's overcome his fear of machines.]
Gau: Gau become stronger on the Veldt.
Setzer: Something good will come of it all!
Umaro (the Yeti): Uhhhh...
Relm: Let's do it! Let's go get that madman!
Okay, okay, already! Relm's right. I'm pussyfooting.
However, before we can parachute in, Celes raises an important question.
Wait, do we really have to destroy the goddess Statues? Can't we just fight the evil clown who's tapping them? *sigh* Well, I suppose they are the source of his power, but I think Celes is right to hesitate.
Strago, Exposition Dude for our merry crew, chimes in.
Um. Define "Disappear." I trust that he means from this world only, and not that we'll be destroying them altogether! Otherwise, we'll be guilty of genocide.
However, Celes isn't really considering the broader ethics; she's focused on someone she knows.
Terra looks down and says nothing, leaving the question hanging. The game butts in, asking me to divvy the party into three groups for the final assault. No time to think things through, hup-hup-hup, time's a-wasting!
My groups: Terra/Edgar/Sabin/Mog for the Narshe team, Celes/Locke/Cyan/Gau for the game's official OTP and my favorite BroTP, and Relm/Strago/Shadow/Setzer to put family members together and jam Setzer where he fits.
(Below: Kefka's Tower, an earlier screencap; we actually hop right off the airship onto the top of the rubbish heap. Couldn't we have hunted for a front door?)
Kefka's tastes are so diabolically skewed that he doesn't even realize that the endgame is supposed to take place in the Dungeon of Shiny. His tower, erected out of scraps from the ruined imperial capital and Magitek Research Lab, looks more like a Dungeon of Junkyard Wars.
Terra is momentarily disturbed by video game physics as we plummet from the airship deck to Kefka's Tower far below.
Dammit it's another conveyor belt and pipes maze, my least favorite. For variety's sake, it's set in a pile of crap, instead of the usual steampunk gears-and-girders setting.
Random aside: How cute. If someone's KOed with a Cherub Down relic (auto-Float, insurance against the Quake attack which has been my downfall through a lot of this game), they bob gently in midair. LOCKE WAKE UP.
Also, Marlboro ("Evil Oscar") + Greater Behemoth + random dinosaur thingie? Not cricket.
Finally, after various boss battles and switches and puzzles and other non-screencap-worthy adventures, each of my assault teams reaches a goddess statue. The Path of Plot Advancement says we must kill the Triple Goddess (grrrrrr), so let's get to it.
These battles are pretty tough, but I've overleveled a bit to get here, so they go down one by one. I'm still not convinced that this is a good idea.
(I've turned Sir Cyan into a kickass Dragoon, with the help of a few relics that let him unleash death from above like a samurai pogo stick.)
After we finish off the final goddess, a non-PC-specific speech box announces, "Defeat the Statues, and magical power will not disappear..." directly contradicting what we discussed back on the airship. The disembodied voice/thought-box adds:
If that's so, why was I still able to summon Espers? Are the Espers bound into magicite the only ones left? And how are we able to use spells? Does this mean Kefka is now acting as the "Statue" for this world, and he's become the source of all Magic?
Whatever's happened, I have a bad feeling that we're playing right into Kefka's hands again. Speaking of which, he welcomes us to the top of his tower with his usual barking mad laughter.
I think Kefka needs to review rule #6 on the Evil Overlord list.
Our friends ask, "How long are you going to let this destruction continue?" I assume this is rhetorical, as they are not as dense as Cecil Harvey.
"Ultimate" power— every fantasy villain wants it. Kinda like "Final" Fantasy, there seems to be an unlimited supply of it.
Terra rises to the occasion and rebuts Kefka's generic "Your lives are meaningless / Life is pointless / You are like insects to me" rant that ends with him demanding to know why we keep struggling when everything dies. She says the "net result" (terrible translation, guys) doesn't matter, as long as people still take joy in the time they have.
I am pleased that Terra's the one to tell Kefka off, but good heavens this scene's dragging.
Kefka demands to know what joy they've found in the miserable world he's created.
Time for a recitation! The whole party joins in.
Locke: And I have learned to celebrate life... and the living. [Good boy. Okay, you DID learn something.]
Cyan: My family lives on inside of me.
Shadow: I know what friendship is... and family... [Wish that hadn't been quite so secret, game designers]
Edgar: It is my dream to build a kingdom in which I can guarantee freedom, and dignity. [Because nothing says "freedom" like an enlightened autocracy, in Final Fantasyland!]
Sabin: I have come to experience anew the love of my brother. [This is very sweet and I'm going to stick my fingers in my ears LALALA I CAN'T HEAR YOU TWINCESTERS.]
Cele: I've met someone who can accept me for what I am. [Celes, you were totally confident in who you were when this game STARTED. Grrrr.]
Strago: I have a special little Granddaughter! [I'm glad multigenerational battle parties are a thing.]
Relm: And I have a brave Grandpa who'll stand by me through it all. [GBA is better: "An obnoxious Grandpa...who I couldn't live without!"]
Setzer: My friend's airship...and her love!
Mog: I have my friends here!
Gau: You my friends! Me uwaoooo all of you! [Awwww. I have such a soft spot for Gau.]
Kefka can't stand it any longer. I don't blame him, although it's fun having enough developed characters for a scene like that.
Final Battle Time? Nooooo. Kefka has to show off some more, playing with his Light of Judgment beam while we stand around twiddling our thumbs. Come on already, gang, jump him!
Aaaaaand Terra and Kefka need to exchange more hero and villain speeches.
(Good for you Terra, but a right hook might get this done faster!)
Kefka says he wants to destroy everything and "create a monument to non-existence!"
Diabolical as he sounds, I think this trope worked better when Final Fantasy had random Giants in Armor With Spiky Bits or even Giant Trees as the ultimate villain. Now that we're moving away from a mythological feel — mythology is stock-full of Personifications of Annihilation playing on our fears of death and chaos — to a more realistic world, the "destroy destroy" villain starts to feel a little forced to me. He is a clown. Real-world despots want power or luxuries or something; I have never seen one who wanted to give up his horse or mistresses or VCR or mansion or all his followers and retire to a nice peaceful singularity in the middle of a featureless void. This is not a problem unique to FFVI; it's just the first time that the world's become realistic enough that I find myself wanting a more 3-dimensional villain to match.
Locke steps in to back up Terra with his usual rallying cry.
Okay, so there's still a time and a place for Locke's White Knight code of conduct.
Are we ready to rumble yet?
Now, here I made a fatal mistake. The game told me to pick a fighting order, so I picked my weakest to strongest characters, thinking that different characters would get to whomp on different Boss Bits as in VII. My strategy didn't work: I was stuck with my starting four and never got a chance to unleash my real bruisers.
Before Kefka, there's a Jenga Tower of sub-bosses; we float up after each tier is dispatched. (Eat your heart out, laws of physics; we're in the WTF Cracktastic Landscape Endgame Battle Zone.)
My ill-chosen party holds their own pretty well, but Shadow's limited in what he can throw.
By the time we reach tier three, things started to get dicey.
Here's where I got stuck. I could keep my party alive, but the bleeping virgin Mary in the back kept healing these two bosses faster than I could damage them. I finally gave up, let my party die (hoping that the next group would fill in — they didn't) and returned to the desert of Sand Worms, Cactuars and XP to level grind for a while.
Which meant clawing my way through the lengthy Junkpile Labyrinth and sitting through Kefka's half-hour gloat-and-speechify scene again. Oops.
Take two, now with my preferred party of magic badasses plus Edgar with his nifty "Air Anchor" weapon of doom. We beat the Jenga Tower Bosses again and reach Kefka, now sporting four wings (OF COURSE!).
Yeah yeah. I have an ultima spell with your name on it. Several. Take it away, Terra (with your lovely doublecast):
No parting words? Wow, I guess he got it all of his system before the battle.
After he's defeated, Kefka's Tower of Junk starts to fall apart, in the time-honored tradition of evil overlord dungeons everywhere. The whole structure is shaking.
Celes rallies the troops!
Of course, it won't be that easy. Rhetorical question time...
You know exactly what's wrong, Celes. You voiced concerns about this back on the airship, remember?
A magicite crystal floats out of Terra's heart and goes *poof* in a puff of pyreflies, er, mako, er, whatever that green stuff is. Other magicite crystals rise from the rest of the party as well.
One by one, the crystals explode. "Magic is disappearing from the world," an unlabeled speech box intones.
(Gogo and Umaro show up to tell us they've brought the airship close by. THEY LIE, as the next lengthy sequence demonstrates, but I'm amused that one of them has evidently become suddenly chatty. The generic speech box didn't count on my leaving the party's two mutes behind.)
They don't? Are you sure about that, Ed? I repeat, did we just commit genocide?!!! ARGH. I am deeply worried about Terra, but this is important to clarify!
Celes, you were worried about this in the first place, hon. This shouldn't be a surprise.
However, Terra gets one more Big Damn Hero moment. She started the game so lost and uncertain that she was asking everyone she met for guidance. Now she'll guide them all to safety with her dying (?) breath.
Again, FFX will draw on this idea again seven years later: Terra went into this battle knowing that losing the Espers from this world might wipe her out of existence. She just didn't say anything about it beforehand. (I have absolutely no objections to FF recycling old tropes, if done well, and I think this was).
Now we get an interesting form of end credits: instead of focusing on the world's recovery after the battle, it spotlights our characters, who are now front and central to FF. Title credits alternate with vignettes demonstrating Celes' "Come on, everybody, we have to work together!"
So I'm gonna babble some thoughts about the cast (Sorry, I know, I already did above for the leads).
(isn't that a type font? Ahem.)
I liked Cyan from the start, although I grew more interested in others later. He's a classic, stodgy samurai bloke. I couldn't help comparing him to Auron, another ronin doing penance after losing his liegelord. I liked Cyan's stuffy formality, his knightly manners, and, most of all, the great respect he showed "Sir Gau" as a fellow "knight," never mind that Gau had no notion of etiquette. I'm...still irked at Cyan for that lapse in impersonating Lola's dead girlfriend, but it was an interesting moment of character weakness.
Below: Here's some of the @#%@! switch puzzles I didn't screencap earlier. Cyan still hates machines, but has learned the old Doctor Who method of pounding on them until they submit. (Does that still happen in the new show?)
It's ironic that a world dominated by machinery, where magic is anathema, still has the traditional-Japanese character who's a technophobe.
In my happy headcanon, Sir Cyan and Sir Gau head out to clear the world of monsters and practice the arts of chivalry, making for a hilariously Odd Couple.
Setzer's turning up aces...
Setzer leads friends through the maze on instinct (and small explosives — why didn't he use those before?)
("Daryl... I'm starting to sound just like you..." he quips).
Setzer's a fun rogue character who never really grabbed me, despite his great backstory with a rival airship captain (hotheaded woman — more, please!) I loved Setzer's relaxed yet respectful relationship with Celes. He takes a shine to her when she shows she's willing to gamble and hustle, and he admires her gall. It's the same reason he loved Daryl. In a different world, Setzer/Celes could've been a fun ship, especially if she's held onto that tough-as-nails aspect. (Oh, wait, is that Balthier and Ashe?)
The Figaro brothers' end titles give us a good look at that two-headed coin.
It's teenaged Edgar and Sabin! Really, Sabin had to know about that coin... didn't he? Unless it belonged to their father, and he ran out of the room before Dying Dad passed it on.
Back in the present, Sabin saves his brother from a falling beam, telling him "I didn't turn my back on the kingdom, big brother..."
"Now I know why I have these stupid muscles!"
I love the relationship between the brothers. So often, games and other modern media play with sibling friction as a narrative device. With good reason: it's harder to pull off "sibling harmony" and make it interesting. FF seems to insert narrative tension by separating siblings: Faris and Lenna, Sabin and Edgar, Ellone and Squall, Serah and Lightning. (FFXII and FFII do both separation and antagonism: Maria and Leon, who don't come into personal conflict, and Gabranth and Basch who most certainly do).
For being stereotypes — the womanizer, the musclehead — Ed and Sabin are reasonably complex characters. (Even if Sabin's murder of Vargas, his mentor's son, is a dangling loose end that the game forgot to address. Oops!)
The next title card is cute: the tree is a little music box with a merry-go-round of moogles circling around the trunk; they hop off and wander into the next title card, then fall over.
Confession time! I used to hate Mogs. My first encounter with them was, believe it or not, Lulu's Moogle doll in FFX. I couldn't understand why this fierce, cynical, intelligent woman in the group was saddled with a stuffed animal, as if to compensate for and diminish her badassitude. So, I initially viewed Mogs with some suspicion. Then I went back and played VII, where the only Mog was part of Cait Sith's gig, and I thought that was stupid, nor was I particularly charmed by the Mog game at the Golden Saucer.
Basically, I'm a grumpy older gamer who needs a reason to overcome my initial "Ugh, Disney Sidekick / Cutesy Wootsy Critter" reflex. They have to be Studio Ghibli quality to melt my Grinch heart.
(Below: Edgar uses a hoist to help Mog to safety after a floor panel falls. I guess this Mog can't fly.)
FFXII (Montblanc!) helped me overcome my Moogle-phobia; that game's moogles were cute but were mainly people. Then I started in on the older games and encountered Mog and the Moogle Villages in FFV, where they're decidedly endearing in a less-than-serious game. Finally, I ran into Mog in FFXIII-2, who initially annoyed me as well, but he grew on me. So that's how I overcame my Mog-phobia and began to love all the crazy zany Moogles of Final Fantasy.
I like to think that FFVI's Mog is the same Mog in XIII and perhaps Krile's advisor in V as well. He gets around.
Below: The moogles that escaped from the previous title card march up to the Yeti's totem, seen in Umaro's cave, and faint when its eyes light up.
What can I say about Umaro? He's a Yeti. A useful random attacker who does a lot of damage, but he doesn't contribute enough to the story to be more than an amusing curiosity ("Sure, why not throw a Yeti into a fantasy game with steampunk, Italian opera, monsters from Greek mythology, Hindu and Norse gods, Ninjas, and WWII allusions? We've covered everything else.)
Above: Umaro bashes a new path after they hit a dead end. Because obviously nobody could CLIMB over obstacles; that's just crazy talk!
Next up is Gogo, our androgynous and sadly undeveloped mime.
Gogo's brief cameo in the end credits is simply to mimic Celes' movements to help pass yet another puzzle.
When Celes walks up the stairs to leave the room, Gogo mimics that, too, and falls through the gap in the floor,
Here's Gau's ridiculous "breathing apparatus" which somehow allowed him, Sabin and Cyan to breathe underwater all the way across the ocean, despite no visible airtank! Gotta love video game physics.
I've already raved about Gau. What can I say? I think he's a sweetheart, and I love watching him bounce all over the screen like a human flea. Also, his Rage abilities kick ass, if one is patient enough to collect them.
Although Celes may not entirely appreciate Gau's exuberant approach to dealing with obstacles:
Yes, he flung her.
So next we have our canon ship for this game. Before this, the only FF ship was Cecil/Rosa with a side helping of Kain (and possibly Rydia/Edge and Ingus/Sarah, but both of those were added/expanded in the remakes many years after their original games).
Locke's and Celes' title cards are presented together, with Maria's bouquet from the opera next to Locke's bandana.
Sigh. I shipped them when I first played this game, and saw no problems doing so. But just like going back to Doctor Doolittle as an adult, there's problems I can't unsee, now that I see them. (Well, at least Celes/Locke isn't that horrifying. It's just not entirely healthy). I keep wanting Celes/Terra, or just leaving Celes as the standoffish soldier who gets the job done and doesn't expect anyone to like her. I guess that's why Celes' trips to the Damsel in Distress penalty box bother me: not that soldiers and superheroes never get into trouble, but it should take a lot to render her helpless.
And Locke? Well. I keep reminding myself that he basically lives to help others, but ...confession time... I judge him for being the single worst thief in all of Final Fantasy. I have never had so much trouble "stealing" with any other thief character, which puts a real crimp on my "steal everything I can use, sell everything I can't for gil" strategy. There, I said it: I am petty and shallow.
Okay, no, really, there were more important reasons why I had trouble with Locke, which I've beaten to death already. But the final Celes/Locke sequence here in the end credits seals the deal for me. It's the whole problematic ship in a nutshell:
I missed screencapping the next bit — the cinematics here were continuous, rather than pausing for speech boxes — which shows Celes dashing back to grab whatever's lying on the floor. (I now see that it looks suspiciously like Locke's bandana.)
Of course, Celes falls as the floor drops away.
So now we have a partial parallel to Rachel pushing Locke to safety and falling off a bridge — except in this case Celes wasn't trying to save Locke, just grab something. I was really really hoping it would turn out to be a rope, and she'd haul both of them to safety, proving that Locke doesn't need to keep "saving" her. But no...
He drags her to safety, then scolds her for making such a foolish move right after he told her not to.
So, basically, their final scene is a contrived "damsel in distress" vignette in which Celes momentarily takes leave of her senses, does something phenomenally stupid against Locke's sound advice, cries for help when she gets in trouble, and gets rescued by Locke, who thereby gets a noble "I won't let you go!" hero moment. It's a romantic dynamic precipitated on imbalance, on Celes failing self-preservation 101 and needing Locke to live. Locke, for his part, is simply the guy who feels like he has no self-worth unless he's rescuing damsels, which isn't the charming rogue I thought he was going to be when the game started. Way to explode expectations...I guess?
Now to my favorite character in the story (barely beating out Gau):
I was worried that Terra would continue to be the helpless, clueless innocent waif constantly asking others for guidance and looking for love, like Leeloo in The Fifth Element. But she outgrows that (and even from the beginning, exhibits a certain suspicion when she thinks people are trying to exploit her powers). She winds up establishing her own definition of love, finding something she's willing to fight for, and making her own choices.
And she's got the whole "child of two worlds" aspect. Great character.
Back in gameplay: As Terra's leading her friends through the ruins of the Magitek Research Facility, another magicite crystal flies away from her. She turns and calls, "Father?" He replies:
Well, I think that answers my concern that by destroying the Goddess Statues, we killed the Esper race. But it's still uncomfortably vague whether they'll be able to exist in their world, after disappearing from ours.
Again, I'm seeing how FFX drew on FFVI for certain threads, expanding/elaborating them. (Or in this case, X-2.)
Right. Just so we blow any semblance of a cliffhanger here. ;)
Next up, Kid Brat...
I'm relieved to say that despite my nickname for her, I'd become fond of Relm and her godly magic abilities by the time I reached the endgame. I think some of her lines were lost in the PS1 translation. (Also, that weak "Sketch" command didn't help. "Control" did.)
It's not entirely clear in this screencap, but Relm is carrying her grandfather on her back:
I should really cut her some slack as a feisty girl who dotes on yet stands up to her warrior grandfather.
Next up, Relm's Father, although I only learned this after looking up Shadow's dreams on YouTube. I'm disappointed in myself for not learning Shadow's secret via gameplay! It does make his role in the game much more touching, a wanted criminal who's walled off his heart and left his only family behind. Yet he told Kefka above that he'd finally found family again, even if he never reveals himself to them.
Sadly, the last thing we see of Shadow is an exact echo of his dream of 10 years ago: he orders his dog, Interceptor, to "get going," and then he stays behind. So Shadow is the only party member who's not shown helping or being helped by his friends, no doubt because he could've been dead by this point in the game depending on player choices back on the Floating Continent.
Baram was Shadow's fellow robber, badly injured in their final escapade. Shadow ran away when Baram asked Shadow to kill him to save him from being captured.
Shadow's words here imply that he intends to survive, yet he stays behind and is not present on the airship in the final scene. So...did he die? I'm not certain. It's an interesting, melancholy loose end.
Last but not least, our old coot. I'm fond of Exposition Dudes and blue magic, so Strago was an easy if not spectacular character to use.
He's taken the idea of "Gungho" to heart again...
They nearly get left behind, but Strago does a Gau-like bounce to seize a hook and hoist himself and his granddaughter to safety.
Remember when RPGs were self-inserts, and "you" were the character in the story instead of the hidden hand guiding it? (See my "The Best Stories I Ever Lived" essay about the role of roleplay in Final Fantasy).
All right! End credits ... are not actually the end, as so often in movies! There's a bit more. Terra leads the party back onto the deck of the airship, then flies ahead of them, calling, "Follow me!"
Terra keeps flying, leading them out of the wreckage of Kefka's tower as it falls around them. (It seems to have gotten much, much bigger since we last saw it on the world map.)
Celes is, as usual, the party member sensitive to Terra and concerned for her, crying out, "Terra, your strength is going!" just before she tumbles from the sky. It went so fast I almost didn't see it, but Setzer throws the airship into a dive. The scene switches to the village of Mobliz, where little kids rush outside and up a hill to watch a falling star...
Meanwhile, Katrin's giving birth below. (Is this the only birth ever represented in FF?)
(Yet another awkward PS1 translation.)
Of course, Setzer has pulled off a miracle and caught Terra in mid-plummet.
Celes hurries over and carries her away from the edge. Setzer helps tend her (a phoenix down would surely be in order after a fall like that). Terra rises and says, "Thank you, Setzer!"
Setzer gets the last word.
Okay, now we get the real end credits, with the airship whizzing hither and yon and the best 3D effects that a Nintendo could muster.
The original founder of Square and Final Fantasy, right?
I just like this view (shades of Balamb Garden)
And with this, I have officially finished all the main-numbered Final Fantasies (I-XIII) plus X-2, XIII-2 and Dirge of Cerberus, not counting the MMOs. PHEW.
...and I think the baby should be named after Terra.
The airship gives us the grand tour of towns we've visited, and we see them growing green again, flowers blooming, people repairing houses, Castle Figaro's chocobo knights patrolling (Sabin and Ed stand side by side waving to them), and finally... Terra whips her hair out of her ponytail and lets it fly in the wind.
Which is such a famous, iconic Final Fantasy moment that I knew it was the ending even before I played this game.
Only this still isn't the end (shades of the Lord of the Rings films!), because the PS1 version has tacked on an extra FMV, explaining/expanding the cryptic scenes shown in the opening FMV:
The superimposed words are Kefka's taunts to the party and Terra during their endgame confrontation, when he demands to know what they're fighting for.
The new FMV really harps on Celes/Locke, juxtaposed with Edgar giving Sabin his freedom (an almost opposite relationship: it's balanced and based on unspoken understandings).
We get our hearts plucked once more by a view of Terra in Narshe, being forced by the slave crown to mow down innocent Returners in the snow (yikes): a good reminder that while we saved the world, a lot of the characters we met early on are now dead.
Shadow fights ghosts on the Phantom Train: I assume this is supposed to be mid-game and not his final fate, but I'm not certain? Setzer shows off his peculiarly incendiary card tricks.
Then there's Kefka in his gratuitously four-winged final "Sephiroth" form, but what's attacking him?! Not us! It looks like the Alexander summons, which leaves me totally stumped. Any suggestions?
Last but not least Celes in her "Maria opera gown / damsel" guise, with "Oh my hero" playing... but finally she morphs back into General Celes, in a decidedly Amano pose and costume.
I will say that this game does an amazing job of dealing with life-shattering events, and the "World has totally broken" sequence is masterful.
However, I think a lot of people forget that a similar event occurred in FFV, when Bartz had an epic meltdown watching his village be destroyed. (For that matter, FFIII started with the world broken in two.) Nor is the first game to deal seriously with angst, loss and death — from the VICTORIA FALLS OF ANGST in FFIV to Faris' grief over the loss of Syldra and Krile's grief over the loss of her grandfather in V.
So a lot of the "firsts" that VI is touted for are present in the earlier games, but it does handle those elements well.
I found the game dragged in spots, between the ferocious pace of random encounters and the bulk of the game taken up with cat herding. But I'm glad I've finally experienced the games that so many friends know and love. I probably won't play it again — which is why I wound up taking so long, being completist in case I don't pass this way again — but I'm definitely looking forward to browsing FFVI fanfic without fear of spoilers. :) (Feel free to recommend some in the comments!)
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